By Jill Chapin
October 3, 2012
If you have ever watched someone who has been kidnapped and forced to denounce his country before a taped recording, you would notice that he is spewing forth rhetoric that he doesn’t really believe. But in order to survive, he must utter the words his captives have put before him.
Watching Governor Romney speak to the extremist wing of his own party, it is remarkable how much he resembles a kidnapped man who must say what his captives want, at risk of being politically annihilated.
As Governor Romney’s poll numbers are slowly but inexorably inching south, news pundits on both sides of the aisle are blaming those falling numbers on a flawed candidate.
I disagree. The Mitt Romney we used to know – the pragmatic, flexible guy – has been snuffed out by the hardline extremists in his own party. His words ring false because they are not the words he would say if he were allowed to showcase the more moderate man that he is.
But then, he sold his soul at the nominating process, determined to appear as far right as the ultra conservatives demanded of him in order to become their candidate. It got him the nomination, but it is likely that his tacting so far off center will tilt the election against him. If so, the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the moderate Republicans who have allowed their party to be hijacked by those whose values are simply not shared by most twenty-first century voters.
Romney has had to renounce so much of what he once championed, and thanks to his own taped words, we have proof that he is not so much a flawed candidate as he is a repackaged one. The words he says bear little resemblance to much of what he used to say. Further, he once spoke easily, as if his words and his beliefs were in sync with each other.
No more. If he seems awkward and flip-floppy, it’s because he is constantly at war with himself as to which Mitt Romney he is supposed to be – the real one or the imposter. He is clearly uncomfortable portraying himself as someone he never was, but is determined to say whatever must be said in order to win. This is why we often hear him speak candidly at noon, only to have him retract it an hour later and twist like a pretzel trying to explain what he really meant.
If he does go down in defeat, Republicans will need to go back to the drawing board and realize that they can’t have it both ways. They picked a candidate that appeared to be the least dogmatic, but then kept him on a tight leash so as not to stray from the Tea Party message.
There are likely many Democrats who could have entertained the possibility of voting for a Republican this election year, but reasonableness and moderation have been scrubbed clean from their party’s platform. So if President Obama wins, he most likely will have won no matter who the nominee would have been because any Republican would have been forced to tow the hard-right party line. Maybe someone else would have seemed more sincere. But maybe that someone else would have frightened far more of the general population to have landed an even bigger defeat than Mr. Romney may endure.